The War Drags Ever On: British metallers, Tank.

After years of false starts, breakdowns and disappointment, veteran British metallists Tank are on the warpath again - and this time they're serious. Deadly serious.

Tank are one of heavy metal’s hidden treasures. That this state of affairs is a travesty is not in question – had the band got a few breaks in the early eighties the high quality of their output at the time would have assured them of godlike status and household renown - what is is whether the band, newly resurgent after years of enforced hiatus and now back with a soon-to-be-released new album, War Machine, are up to the task of restoring the name of one of England’s most enduring metal names. A demo version of the one track (Judgement Day) that MaF had heard at the time this interview was mooted suggests they are, so we decided to look up longtime guitarist Cliff Evans with a view to finding out a little more about this new chapter in the band’s history.

I last talked to Cliff a couple of years ago, at which time there were no plans for a new album mentioned – So, I mused, things have moved pretty quickly of late – how did this all pan out?

“Tank had ground to a halt a few years back mainly down to Algy (Ward, the band’s former bassist and vocalist who also featured in late seventies lineups of Punk icons The Damned and The Saints)’s ongoing health problems and general lack of interest in the band. He would often disappear for a couple of years at a time, so we we’re used to that, but this time he really had called it a day. Mick (TuckerEvan’s longstanding six-string partner and the man who left NWOBHM hopefuls White Spirit to join Tank; he was replaced in WS by none other than Janick Gers!) and me -  we’re getting really pissed off with not touring and the lack of new material and albums. We were constantly getting emails from fans, labels and agents worldwide asking us why we are not doing anything. This was very frustrating for us so we decided to do something about it. The decision was made to move Tank forward into a new era.”

So it’s very important for you to keep Tank progressing? It’d be very easy for a band of this vintage to just trot out on a greatest hits tour once a year and then spend the down time counting the t-shirt money, surely?

“We’ve got to prove to the fans that Tank is one of the best classic rock/metal bands around today. This new lineup has given us the firepower to do that. The new album War Machine is the proof”.

There are a lot of very fine heavy metal credentials in the latest Tank lineup – how did you come about piecing it together? (Original timekeeper) Mark Brabbs and Bruce Bisland (ex Praying Mantis) have both occupied the drum stool in the last couple of years, but neither played on the album, and now (former Zodiac Mindwarp drummist) Dave Cavill is beating the skins. Why was/Is that


“Mick was working with Doogie (former Rainbow/Yngwie vocalist Doogie White) on a solo project, and when we were putting the new lineup together we decided to get Doogie down to record some demo tracks. It worked out really well and he fitted right in. We wanted a separate singer and bass player in the new lineup to avoid any comparisons with Algy and to add a new dimension to the band both in the studio and on stage. Bassist Chris Dale was a member of Bruce Dickinson’s solo band so he knows his way around a bass. Drummers come and go. It was great having Brabbsy back in the fold for a while. Though not the best drummer in the world, he certainly is the most entertaining after a few beers. He now lives very comfortably on his estate on the Isle of Man with his lovely wife”

Doogie White has a history in far more melodic music, yet on the new track available on the band’s website he sounds like a natural metal singer. How long did it take Doogie to get into the Tank way of doing things?

 

“We think this is Doogie’s best ever vocal performance on album. He goes from screaming metal that rivals Halford to soulful bluesy passages that take you back to those classic recordings from the golden 1970s era of rock. If you put your nose up to your speaker you can smell the whiskey on his breath!”


I will try that out. I first saw Tank in the live arena when they supported Metallica on part of the latter’s worldwide Ride the Lightning jaunt in London in 1984. Tucker and Evans, then as now, meshed brilliantly as a guitar team, but was it ever thus? Does ‘looking like you’ve been at it forever’ take hard work or does it just come naturally to the pair?

“We just love playing (and drinking!) together. There’s no rivalry. We just crank those Gibson Les Pauls up and open fire. The new album has a huge guitar sound, which is something I feel Tank recordings have been lacking over the years. This is mainly down to our producer Pedro Ferreira. He produced the first Darkness album. That was a ‘big guitar’ album which we liked. He did a great job for us”.

Before you start screaming – and I know some of you will – “the Darkness are’nt metal!” then bare this in mind before you start bleating – the guitars for this album were recorded at Steve Harris’ Barnyard Studio. And if that isn’t metal enough for you, well, we respectfully suggest you stop reading now and head over to www.dourhumourlessmetalnerds.com, where some fifteen-year-olds in 1984 Slayer tour shirts will look after you.

But I digress.

We mentioned Algy Ward’s inability to get things together earlier. Late last year, when this album was first publically mooted, Algy made some rather intemperate comments about the whole thimg being done ‘without his permission’. Has he calmed down now?

“We felt very let down by Algy. Mick has been a member of Tank for 28 years and I have myself for 26. In all that time I think we only played about 30 or 40 shows worldwide. We all like a drink, but Algy tended to pick rather inappropriate moments to get pissed which led to us being ignored by promoters and, ultimately, losing record deals. I guess that was just his style. There’s an army of Tank fans out there who just want to come and see us play and enjoy the music new and old. We now intend to give them what they want”.

As an adjunct to that, a few years ago you did get Algy into the studio and recorded what was to be an album named Sturmpanzer. Will those sessions ever see the light of day?

“Who knows? Maybe one day...”

And talking of old days, Evans, in his lengthy Tank down times, became a trusty right-hand man to former Maiden throatsmith Paul Di’Anno. Just out of interest and in an effort to ceaselessly probe for nuggets of metal ephemera, I chance my arm and ask about the beast... How were those Killers days? As mad as Di’Anno’s autobiography suggests?”

“That’s for another interview! You cannot imagine the madness going on there!”

We’ll hold you to that, Mr Evans. Anyways, enough of the past – to the future. These are exciting times for Tank. What does the next year hold in store?

“Touring, touring, and touring. And perhaps the occasional beer.”